How to Get Rid of a Hangover
A hangover in its purest sense means “a thing left over from before.” But in 1904, the word became associated with drinking alcohol, and soon the world has come to identify the word with feeling horrible the day after drinking.1
There’s a strong chance you’ve already experienced several hangover after a few nights out with your friends or family, and you’ve tried various ways to rid yourself of it. But how does it happen, and can you even prevent it from happening in the first place? If you’re looking to help yourself get rid of a hangover effectively, you’ve come to the right place.
What Does a Hangover Feel Like and How Long Does It Last?
A hangover isn’t considered a disease in itself, but a collection of symptoms and signs that collectively produce an unpleasant disposition after drinking too much alcohol. Depending on how much you drank and how your body responds, you may experience any or a combination of the following:2
|Fatigue and weakness||Thirstiness|
|Headaches and muscle aches||Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain|
|Poor or decreased sleep||Increased sensitivity to light and sound|
|Lowered ability to concentrate||Mood issues, such as depression, anxiety and irritability|
Hangovers begin to appear a few hours after you stop drinking and your blood alcohol concentration falls. Typically, the symptoms end within 24 hours, but in more severe cases, it can last up to 72 hours.3
|Slow breathing or irregular breathing||Blue-tinged or pale skin|
|Low body temperature||Difficulty remaining conscious or passing out|
If you notice any of the following symptoms, get help from a family member and visit a doctor immediately for treatment to help prevent damaging your body further.
What Causes a Hangover in the First Place?
Alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, a colorless liquid that’s absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and then distributed all over your body.5Once ethanol enters your bloodstream, it passes through the cell membranes, generally staying at the brain. This causes a depressant effect in your nervous system by linking up with nerve receptors and causing dopamine to be released into your body.6
In particular, ethanol binds with glutamate, a transmitter that excites neurons. The alcohol prevents this substance from becoming active, thus making the brain respond slowly to stimuli. Furthermore, ethanol binds and activates with gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, making a person feel calm and slowing down brain function further.7
Alcohol affects each person differently, triggering a variety of symptoms that may contribute to a hangover. Prominent examples include:8
Increased Urine Production
Drinking high amounts of alcohol can cause you to urinate more, which results in symptoms of dehydrationlike thirstiness, dizziness and lightheadedness.
Irritation in Your Stomach Lining
Alcoholic drinks can increase the production of digestive acids and delay stomach emptying. This can cause abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Alcohol can lower your blood sugar levels below the normal range, causing fatigue, weakness, shakiness, mood swings and in severe cases, even seizures.
Occurrence of Headaches
Drinking alcoholic beverages can expand your blood vessels, which can result in headaches once you wake up.
Lowered Sleep Quality
The presence of alcohol may make you sleepy. If you wake up with an inadequate amount of rest, you may experience grogginess.
Triggered Immune Response
Your immune system may react in different ways once alcohol is digested. Common issues include inability to concentrate, decreased appetite and memory problems
Natural Remedies and Foods for Alleviating a Hangover
It’s important to know that there is no magic cure to a hangover. The only way to counteract its effects is to give your body time to rest and recover while nourishing yourself with healthy foods and beverages. Here are some natural alternatives that may work effectively:9,10
Get Adequate Amounts of Rest
After a night of drinking, try your best to get sufficient amounts of sleep to help your body repair itself. If your sleep is cut short, you may develop headaches and feel tired.
Drink Plenty of Water
Alcohol depletes fluids your body, so it’s important to return them to a healthy range. After you wake up, drink water consistently to prevent yourself from feeling worse.
Bananas may help with hangovers because they contain lots of potassium, a vitamin that is lost when drinking alcohol.
Take a Shower
If you’re feeling hungover, taking a cold shower after you wake up can help wake you up and freshen your senses.
Drink Ginger Root Tea
Ginger root has long been known for its ability to help treat nausea and seasickness, a feeling that is also likened to a hangover.
You can create ginger root tea by boiling a dozen root slices in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes.
A short, high-intensity exercise session can help sweat out the toxins caused by drinking alcohol. Make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydrating yourself further should you attempt this.
Drink Coconut Water
Coconut water is rich in electrolytes that are essential in maintaining biological processes. Drinking plenty of it once you wake up can help return your electrolyte levels to a healthy range.
Eat Beef Bone Broth
A generous serving of beef bone broth can help replenish nutrients that were depleted while you were drinking. It may also help promote healthy digestion and manage inflammation.
Furthermore, essential oils may be particularly helpful after you wake up hungover. Inhaling them via a vaporizer can help re-energize yourself, alleviate pain and headaches, as well as relieve nausea and vomiting. Some helpful oils include:11
How to Help Prevent a Hangover Before You Even Start Drinking
Quite simply, the best way to prevent a hangover is to never drink in the first place. In this way, alcohol will never be able to wreak havoc on your well-being. But if you will be drinking for whatever reason, here are some helpful tips in minimizing a hangover the next day:12,13,14
- Drink water in between alcoholic beverages: Alcohol dehydrates your system, so drink plenty of water in between your cocktails.
- Drink water before sleeping: If you forget to drink water after your night out, guzzle lots of it before going to bed. This will help prevent you from becoming dehydrated the next morning.
- Control your alcohol consumption: Limit your drink to one per hour. This is the average time it takes for an adult body to process the alcohol.
- Don’t smoke: Cigarette smoking alongside drinking can increase the risk and severity of a hangover.
- Eat healthy before drinking: Eating nutritious food before drinking may help keep you hydrated. Cucumbers are a beneficial example, as they contain water, B vitamins and various electrolytes to maintain your well-being.15
If You Will Be Drinking Alcohol, Do It Responsibly
I don’t recommend that you drink alcohol at all, but if you will be attending a party and there will be drinks, you can take the following remedies to “pre-tox” your body and minimize the effects of alcohol:
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): This substance is known to help increase glutathione and reduce acetaldehyde toxicity that is the source of many hangover symptoms. Try taking 200 milligrams of NAC around 30 minutes before you drink.
- B vitamins: Drinking alcohol depletes vitamin B from your system, so loading up on it via food or supplements may help counteract the effects of a hangover the next day.
- Milk thistle: This herb contains antioxidants that may help protect your liver from toxins, including the effects of alcohol.
- Vitamin C: Alcohol reduces your body’s vitamin C levels, which puts you at a disadvantage because this nutrient helps reduce alcohol-induced oxidative stress in your liver.
- Magnesium: This mineral may help reduce symptoms of hangovers because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, it is also exhausted when you drink alcohol, which is why you need to increase its intake afterward to compensate for the loss.
- 1,4 Dictionary.com, “Hangover”
- 2 Mayo Clinic “Hangovers — Symptoms”
- 3 AddictionBlog.org, July 23, 2011
- 5, PubChem, “Ethanol”
- 6,7 HowStuffWorks, “How Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?”
- 8 Mayo Clinic, “Hangovers — Causes”
- 9 The Spruce, September 21, 2017
- 10 HowStuffWorks, “9 Home Remedies for Hangovers”
- 11 Better Health Organization, “Top 8 Essential Oils for Hangover | Natural Hangover Remedy”
- 12,13 Everyday Health, “8 Natural Hangover Remedies”
- 14 METRO, December 31, 2016
- 15 Men’s Fitness, “Pre-Game Smart: What to Do Before You Booze”